Law School Celebrates Commencement 2013

Commencement day was heralded in at Washington University School of Law with the trumpeting of brass horns and a flowing river of prospective graduates decked in forest green robes and flat-topped caps. The horns thrummed out the familiar tune of Pomp and Circumstance, as the students marched down the aisle through the audience of excited parents, family members, and well-wishers gathered under the tent on Mudd Field.

  • Commencement Photo Gallery [view]
  • Reception Photo Gallery [view]

The law processional came in steady waves, first with faculty and then with law degree candidates, led by Faculty Marshal Kevin Collins, LLM Class Marshal Wonyoung Bang, and JD Class Marshals Molly Bowen and Connor Cobean. Each new troop brought on fresh rounds of cheers until eventually all were seated, waiting for the ceremony to begin. In addition to the new graduates, two members of the Class of 1963, Lester Goldman and Jerome Kraus, were part of the processional and had special seating on stage in honor of their 50th Reunion. 

Dean Kent Syverud began with a stirring speech that reminded everyone how the world was still filled with endless wonder. He imparted a vital message to the gathered graduates not to let anyone else tell them what they can and should do, especially when they, themselves, know what needs to be done.

Alumnus Gregory Hewett, JD ’94, a member of the Law National Council, next delivered the Welcome to the Legal Profession. He imparted a few insights that served him well early in his career. “Be confident, stay humble, and work hard, and ultimately you will succeed,” he stressed.

Hewett, now a senior managing director at Blackstone Advisory Partners in New York City, also cautioned the law students to be critical in their work, but not in life, and to value their family while being as gentle with others as they are to themselves.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Hewett also announced the faculty winner of the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award—Professor Michael M. Greenfield. Dean Syverud then conferred the official award medallion to Greenfield, the George Alexander Madill Professor of Contracts & Commercial Law. Additionally, Dean Syverud acknowledged the Student Bar Association selection of Brian Tamanaha as the David M. Becker Professor of the Year, Karen Tokarz as the inaugural Clinical and Advocacy Professor of the Year, Richard Finneran as the Adjunct Professor of the Year, and Carrie Burns, Financial Aid/Student Services coordinator, as the Distinguished Service Award winner.

The final speaker was JD candidate Zachary Greenberg who served as the Voice of the Class. Greenberg spoke about how, despite the recent outcry for reform in law schools, he still believes that every graduate heading out from Washington University will do so carrying an experience of great material value. He drew further on the legal concept of materiality to underscore his point.

“Sure, for every exam we learned the specific definition of materiality, but this nebulous, shifting standard can be summed up quite easily,” Greenberg said. “Things that are material are important. They are meaningful. They make an impact.”

To Greenberg, the greatest value of his time at the law school came from the hours he spent mulling over problems in clinics, pondering the questions intentionally left unanswered by professors, and absorbing those legal nuggets that became ingrained in his head after every exam.

It is these experiences that meld students into the professionals they are destined to be, as well as create roots for the impact they will have on the world. “Consider materiality to be the standard to which you hold yourself as a lawyer,” Greenberg said. “We will all leave here today as future lawyers, advisors, and counselors who are poised to make a difference, to have an impact, to be material.”

Afterwards, special honors and awards were announced by Janet Laybold, associate dean of Admissions, Career Services, and Student Services. Next came the presentation of diplomas during which the name of each law graduate was announced by Andrew Martin, vice dean and the Charles Nagel Chair of Constitutional Law and Political Science, and Colleen Erker, assistant dean for Academic Services and registrar.

Some 280 JDs, 81 LLMs, 1 MJS and 1 JSD made up the May 2013 graduating class. This included 20 LLMs in Taxation, eight LLMs in Intellectual Property/Technology Law, and 53 LLMs in U.S. Law. The graduates hail from more than 40 states and 26 other countries, including Armenia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Trinidad, the United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe. 

Earlier in the day, the graduates gathered for a group photo, where they were cajoled onto the risers by Professor Hillary Sale holding a megaphone, and attended the all-university ceremony in which they hooded one another and listened to remarks by Cory A. Booker, the mayor of Newark, N.J. and one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world. Related festivities included the Academic Excellence Reception and the LLM Reception.

The day came to a close as the final law degree candidate received a diploma from Dean Syverud and the newly minted graduates, family, friends, faculty, and administrators retired to Anheuser-Busch Hall for a fully-catered reception filled with good food, fine drink, and an air of victory.

By Brent Mueller